from Barbara, previously in Brazil, now in London: Home

12 November 2021

Writing a last entry for the blog has been on my mind for so long, but I think I was unconsciously waiting for the moment when I would be at a point where a circle was closed, children going back to school and being happy, learning and having friends to play with; where I would be working again and enjoying more time for myself, with my wonderful husband Josh and with our friends and family; where I would feel home, serene and with more control in my hands. 

Funny enough, as the blog is just now coming to an end, I have also felt ready to write an entry these days. 

One year ago, we came back from Brazil. We rented a house for six months; had children at home during lockdown and experienced the challenges of home-schooling with a five years old, while looking after a two years old; moved back to our own house (at last); rediscovered the joys to have a walk in a park, to go to a restaurant and to see our friends and families again; became maestros in lateral flow and PCR tests (which we can now probably do blindfolded); became obsessed with graphs, reports and charts showing the evolution of Covid cases; unlearnt where to find information on the evolution of Covid cases; got our first jab; discussed its side effects; got our second jab; discussed its side effects; started taking our children to school and nursery again; learned how to not spend every minute of our days with them and to get used to that new space; look at them grow, thrive, make new friends and get on so easily with their life outside our house; learnt how to travel again; listened to others and how they have experienced the past year, some tragically, others less so. And we told our story, how we moved house four times across two continents during Covid, while everyone else was staying home.

Home. The focus of so much attention in the past year and so. We have learnt how to work from home, how to be together at home, how to not have visitors at home and see people outside the home, how to make home a multipurpose place where work, childminding, schooling, playing, cooking eating, sleeping and, when lucky, resting and relaxing, would all come together. For us who have been moving houses and continents during Covid, we had to learn how to make each house a home.

For sure, life is not the same as before, and we are not the same as before. Life with Covid has changed us and the world around us. We may still suffer lots of these changes for the foreseeable future, but we may also have positively decided on some of them – new priorities, new ways of looking at life and how we want to live it, new ways of looking at ourselves and who we want to be. 

This week after months spent at home looking after our children, while I was doubting this would ever happen again, I have finally started working again for a UN agency and for the French Development Agency. One of my projects should lead me to travel to Laos for ten days in early 2022 to work with coffee producers, Covid rules permitting. When I decided to move to London in 2012 to start a PhD, this is the type of project I was hoping I would work on once I would graduate. Almost ten years ago. A marriage, two children, a transcontinental move, a few different houses, many lateral flow and PCR tests and two jabs later, and Covid still around, this is finally happening, and probably in a better way than I was hoping for. I feel I have come a long way – like everyone else. And I feel so happy.

Covid was not a thing two years ago, and I know how the whole world could turn upside down so easily and so quickly. For now, I just want to enjoy these few steps ahead. Life goes on.

from Brenda in Hove, UK: A Valediction

10 November 2021

When Anne and I started this blog site, we had it in mind to record the stories of the Covid pandemic as experienced by friends and family across eight countries. When we wrote to people inviting them to participate, they were extraordinarily generous in their responses, and I do want to thank them for that. They are a reasonably diverse group of people in terms of work and interests and brought that diversity to bear in their comments and opinions. They are also of an age, mostly. “Retired” (more or less) but busy with all sorts of projects and volunteer activities, some of which had to be abandoned. Mind you, since the onset of Covid, three have published books, one obtained a PhD, some managed to work on assignments online, one took on a big new job, others took on new projects – but nevertheless all our lives were affected by the exigencies of the pandemic and the realities of being in an age group that was high risk. Some have ongoing health issues, one experienced the loss of a spouse, all were separated in some way from family. The severity of lockdowns varied from country to country and even within a country – and that too imposed some harsh realities. The hard lockdowns were difficult for most of us.

And yet, when I read the blogs posted, there is a determined cheerfulness about them that belies some of the hardships the writers were experiencing. These are stoic, resilient, and resourceful people. They have all been survivors. Stiff upper lip and all that.

And yet, there is no gainsaying that the last 20 months have been difficult and left their mark. I certainly do not feel the same person I was 20 months ago. I do not think I achieved as much as I would have liked. And I do not think my relationships are the same as they were 20 months ago – more especially with my grandchildren. When you cannot visit and see young people, the bonds that need reinforcing and fostering weaken – and I doubt we will be able to make that time up. My two in Brighton were children 20 months ago, they are now teenagers with broken voices and different interests. They have left childhood behind – and they have had a tough time of it in the process. The other grandchildren in different countries and cities would have been visited and ‘inspected’ and good memories created. However excellent Whatsapp is, it is not the same. And it makes me sad.

My husband and I are lucky to live in a country where we have not only been vaccinated but have had a booster shot. Many of the diary participants are not so lucky. And for those who live in India or parts of Africa, the reality is much different. These are my friends and family – and one cannot help but worry.

So, who knew this would be our reality at this time of our lives? I wish I were the best example of someone who coped with Covid and lockdown and all it has entailed but clearly, I am not. I count myself fortunate to have friends all over the world who showed us what is possible in adverse circumstances. Thank you again. I salute you all.